Your First Trip To The Grocery Store As A Vegan

By on July 14, 2014
Vegan Grocery Shopping

So you’ve decided to “go vegan”, congratulations! Whether it’s for your personal health, bioethics, environmental concerns, or a combined myriad of reasons, you’ve made a great choice.

The trouble really comes in implementation. If your childhood diet was like that of many people who grew up in America and other Western nations, meat has been a staple in your life. You may have never learned how to grocery shop for items that aren’t meat, rice, pasta, potatoes, and tomatoes. You also may have walked through a grocery store like Whole Foods and saw the “vegan” items like fake meats and kale chips and thought that living as a vegan would be impossible if you’re not in a socioeconomic class that allows for a huge grocery budget.

While specialty vegan foods like ice cream, burgers, mac and cheese, pre-popped popcorn, and fancy dark chocolates can be fun, delicious, and may seem necessary, they are not requirements for a healthful vegan lifestyle. Once you have a little bit of practice, you can be a grocery store pro- and realize that a vegan lifestyle where you cook for yourself is cheaper, easier, and safer than a Standard American Diet.

I could give you a laundry list of items to purchase, but that would be ineffective and monotonous. Instead I can give you the skills that you need to know in order to create an outstanding vegan kitchen. What many people may say is “buy what you normally do, just substitute X (Gardein, Beyond Meat, etc) for the meat, almond milk for cow’s milk, and Earth Balance for butter.” While all of these products are definitely something to put on your diet radar, they aren’t necessarily what your new diet should consist primarily of.

In reality, you’re going to have to start liking and cooking with vegetables. The health benefits of vegetables are unattainable from any other source. And I’m not talking about white potatoes and carrots, I mean a diversity of vegetables. You always have heard “eat the rainbow”- I agree, brightly colored vegetables are higher in vitamins and antioxidants than dull ones- but you really should aim to make that rainbow focused on the color green.

Green vegetables will give you the most bang for your buck. Broccoli, fresh or frozen, is essential. And learn to use vegetables such as kale, collards, and beet greens. These dark green, leafy vegetables are nutrition powerhouses. Don’t shy away from frozen vegetables. They are generally cheaper than fresh and may have higher nutritional quality due to the lack of decay that has occurred over time. Plus, I’ve found that frozen vegetables are much easier to use (you can just throw them in a microwave or stove pot) and they keep for an incredibly long time in the freezer. But either way, make sure than you have a large amount of fresh and frozen vegetables on hand in your kitchen, they will be your best friends.

In terms of grain/base type items, I advise going for quinoa, lentils, oatmeal, rice, and couscous. All of these cook generally quickly, are fairly cheap, and one package will last a long time due to the small serving size (they all expand when cooked). To be really thrifty, these can all be found in the bulk section of most health centered grocery stores.

Other items that I recommend you buy will come next. Fruit- at your discretion. It can be a little pricey so I generally stick to apples and bananas for some extra crunch and a filling snack. Nutritional yeast. This deactivated yeast has a slight cheesy taste and is loaded with15 different minerals and 18 amino acids, including vitamin B12 and folic acid. It can go on top of any dish to add a little extra to your food. I personally love it over popcorn. You can also stock up on nuts and dried fruit. I generally always have almonds and grapes handy to curb a snack craving and for my oatmeal.

In general, a single laundry list of ingredients will not work. You should get in the habit of finding a few recipes that you want to prepare that week and shop around them. If processed foods are your jam, which it’s okay if they are, I have a lot of easy make food in my house, those items are incredibly easy to find. Just be sure to check ingredients! There are a ton of options available in the frozen and dry shelf sections.

Stay always on the lookout for new recipes and you will get the hang of grocery shopping and cooking for yourself.

Do You Have Any Advice For A New Vegan? If so leave a comment below, we’d love to hear from you

About Brianna Krejci

Brianna is a rising sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania studying sociology and philosophy. She is the current Co-President and Dining Liaison of the Penn Vegan Society. Her hometown is Port Washington, Wisconsin, where she lived up until moving to Philadelphia in August of 2013. Brianna has been a vegetarian for six years and a vegan for 15 months. In addition to her work with the Penn Vegan Society, Brianna is on the board of the Penn Consortium of Undergraduate Women and Penn Running Club, a co-founder and president of Penn Poised, a body image positivity group on Penn's campus, and involved in Amnesty International. She is interning for the Historic Germantown Society as well as Amrita Health Foods this summer. She has a strong passion for good coffee and finding new, interesting, vegan foods, products, and restaurant locations.